Cashmere sweaters may be harming snow leopards and other endangered species

According to an article in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Conservation Biology global demand for cashmere wool is leading to destruction of habitat for snow leopards and other large mammals in Central Asia.

Cashmere is a very high quality wool that is obtained from certain types of goat. Much of the world’s supply of cashmere comes from, China but Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and other Central Asian republics are also important sources. The article by scientists from the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, the Snow Leopard Trust and the Nature Conservation Foundation of India, states that expansion of goat breeding in these areas is taking away habitat required by saiga, a critically endangered antelope, chiru, an endangered Tibetan antelope, Bactrian camels, snow leopards, the Mongolian wild ass, the Tibetan wild ass, Przewalski’s horses, and wild yak.

The study indicates that there are “striking yet indirect and unintended actions” linking the demand for cashmere to the decline of these at risk Asian species. The primary challenge is the expansion of goat ranching to provide supply of cashmere and the destruction of habitat that was previously available to these large at risk species.

Restraint of the demand for cashmere and, possibly, certification of cashmere from areas that are not impacting endangered species, may be appropriate industry responses. 

An abstract of the article (free) and a link to the full article (fee required) can be found at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12100/abstract

2 responses

  1. Another “appropriate industry response” might be to produce cashmere closer to its market. There is absolutely no reason cashmere wool must come from those areas.

    The problem is not cashmere. The problem is globalization, driven by cheap fossil sunlight. Someday, those who want cashmere will have to find a local source.

    Anyone in the Cascadia biome want to start combing, carding, and spinning cashmere? I’ll raise the goats! Naw, didn’t think so — that’s work for far-away brown people…

  2. I forgot to mention, all goats produce cashmere! The so-called “cashmere goats” simply produce more of it. I combed a large zip-lock bag of cashmere out of our small herd of Nubian goats over several years.

    If those who comb the winter cashmere out of their ordinary goats simply saved it, that would probably alleviate some of the pressure to bring it in from half the world away!

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